Sanitation is crucial for snack and bakery facilities, especially this year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Legacy facilities must be brought up to code, but there are potential problems lurking in new facilities, as well. Pest control maintenance is also key.
“It is important for a building’s architect, contractor, and owner of the company to discuss the structural requirements for rodent and pest control in the original design of a building,” says Dave Colbert, vice president of sales, Xcluder, Buffalo Grove, IL.
Paying particular attention to structural penetrations such as HVAC and electrical lines, and making sure they are properly sealed, is important, because these are key rodent entry points, Colbert advises. “Exterior doors and loading docks are also prime targets. It’s imperative that the contractor and subcontractors execute the plan with quality checks. For example, cutting a 4-inch-diameter hole for a 1-inch pipe creates unnecessary risk for rodent infestation. Bakeries, and all food processing facilities, should be designed to leave inspection zones along exterior walls.”
Choosing proper materials is also critical to protect against rodents, says Colbert. “Building materials that do not contain gaps, such as poured concrete, will provide more rodent protection than hollow concrete blocks or corrugated metal. When sealing cracks and crevices, avoid the common mistake of choosing spray foam or caulk products. Though easy to use, these products provide little to no protection against the gnawing power of rodents,” Colbert notes.
Specialized rodent-proofing material, such as Xcluder Rodent-Proof Fill Fabric, is crucial to keeping rodents out, he comments. “It is beneficial to choose equipment that can be easily moved away from walls and storage racks that allow for inspection and cleaning beneath the bottom shelf.”
Beau Bridwell, ACE, food safety professional, AIB International, Manhattan, KS, says that the best way to set up a company’s infrastructure for new construction is by having someone on the new construction team who is trained and understands pests. “On the exterior, minimizing pest access to the building is key. Make sure the building is pest-proof and all pest harborage areas and attractants, such as vegetation or dumpsters, are eliminated or as far away from the building as they can physically be. On the interior, you want to make sure the equipment is designed so it can be easily cleaned and so pest harborage is at a minimum. Also, you want to keep voids such as drop ceilings to a minimum.”
Glen Ramsey, senior technical services manager, Orkin, Atlanta, says to first involve your pest control provider when planning construction for your facility, as they can provide insights on your layout to help ensure pests can’t easily enter your facility. “Additionally, have your pest control provider accompany you or provide their input when purchasing or placing machinery so you are aware of any upfront pest attractants or issues that may occur within your facility,” he says.
“An integrated pest management (IPM) program is one of the best ways to align your company’s infrastructure with pest control,” says Ramsey. “With your IPM program, your provider will work with you to assess risks in your facility and develop preventive measures to maintain a pest-free facility. IPM programs are also a sound option for food processing facilities, as they only use chemical treatments as a last resort. This is especially important for maintaining food safety standards.”
Patricia Hottel, BCE, McCloud Services, South Elgin, IL, advises that pest management considerations should start with site selection, as neighboring facilities and the natural environment can impact future pest problems. “For example, you can predict greater pest problems if the building is next to a recycling center, corn field, or marsh, versus plots in a well-manicured business park. If the ideal building site is not available, the facility should institute the appropriate exterior mitigation procedures to keep the pests from entering the facility.”
Once the site is selected, building a facility with cleaning and pest-proofing in mind is critical, says Hottel. “So often, a structure will be built without considering the ability to effectively clean. If something is difficult to clean, it is more likely not to get cleaned or, at the very least, can add to sanitation costs. Facilities should also consider how they will exclude pests and the cost of maintaining a pest-proof facility based on the construction materials used,” she notes.
One common construction material that is difficult to seal and maintain are corrugated walls, Hottel says. “This material damages easily, which can compound the issue. Corrugated ceilings are also difficult to seal and, if not sealed properly, can be extremely difficult to clean. The same is true of suspended ceilings. This type of ceiling provides an undisturbed area for pest development where food particles like flour can accumulate. In planning the layout of the equipment, there should be allowances made so access under and around the equipment for proper cleaning is possible.”
Godfrey Nalyanya, Ph.D., entomologist and regional technical services manager, Rentokil, Reading, PA, says that companies should work with the pest management provider to develop a plan for pest control before, during, and after construction. The list should include:
Pre-construction. Perform an assessment of your construction site to determine the current pest activity and develop a pest control plan for the construction project.
During construction. Address any termites or other wood-destroying insects, rodents, cockroaches, and any other pests that are found on site. The groundbreaking before/during construction unsettles rodent pests and causes them to scatter into the construction material (stones, bricks, blocks, gravel, rocks, etc.) and neighboring areas only to return to the new building as construction progresses. Trash generated during construction is also a major attractant for rodents. Having pest control during construction helps ensure that the new building has no pests when it opens for business. Large cockroaches, mosquitoes, ground beetles, and other pests are also addressed during this phase.
Post-construction, Inspect the exterior and interior of the building for pest-conducive conditions, generating a list of items to address.
Interior. Inspect connections between cabinets and walls and floors, how equipment is fitted on the floors, and floor drain construction. Inspect plumbing, electrical, and cable penetrations into the ceiling and walls to make sure any openings are sealed.
Exterior. Remove all unused constriction material, trash, and debris. Inspect all open electric, plumbing, and utility penetrations to ensure they are sealed.
Pest control devices and equipment. Once inspection is complete, the type and number of pest control equipment/devices (exterior rodent bait stations, multi-catch traps, insect light traps, store product insect monitors, etc.) for long-term pest control maintenance service are determined.
Mitigation in older facilities
Colbert says that in legacy facilities, structural cracks and roof vents should be inspected thoroughly for signs of rodent activity. “Wear and tear on existing pest exclusion materials should also be considered, especially for door sweeps, dock plate levelers, and other areas that are subject to frequent use. Missing or worn-out door sweeps create an open invitation to rodents and should be installed or replaced immediately with specialized rodent-proof door sweeps,” he advises.
One challenge in older facilities, especially bakeries, is the presence of flour and other products in hard-to-reach and hard-to-clean locations, including at the ceiling level on rafters, notes Colbert. “Detailed inspections from floor to roof are important, especially if pest problems have been detected. Regular inspections of the exterior perimeter should take place quarterly, if not more often. A thorough inspection of existing pest-management equipment is also important to determine if devices are functional and are deployed in the most-effective manner possible.”
Another challenge of older buildings is the need to retrofit new technology and replacement equipment, the construction of which often results in new potential rodent entry points, says Colbert. “Attention to detail is critical to avoid creating pathways for pests between rooms and floors,” he says.
For well-maintained buildings, the keys to effective pest management are sanitation and exclusion, Colbert notes. “Garbage should be stored in sealed containers as far from the building as possible, crowded storage areas should be cleared to eliminate potential nesting grounds, and any standing water should be handled immediately. Exterior doors should be properly sealed, and inspections should be thorough and frequent,” he recommends.
For those buildings in disrepair, management teams should meet to prioritize the biggest vulnerabilities and how they can be addressed, says Colbert. “When budgets are limited, creating a prioritized list of repairs will help ensure that the biggest problems are addressed first.”
Companies should eliminate construction features that might have caused issues in cleaning or sealing whenever possible, says Hottel. “It is important to keep in mind that in some cases it may be better to open up a void if it cannot be effectively sealed. An example is suspended ceilings or rolled insulation over corrugate wall. In the case of rolled insulation, it can be difficult to inspect behind the insulation and it provides an excellent area for rodent harborage,” she notes.
“This type of construction is most often seen in warehouse sections of the plant,” says Hottel. “To repair or replace this issue, drywall over the insulation or remove the insulation to expose the corrugate wall. Suspended ceilings are also an issue when it comes to food processing as it can provide areas for rodents and other pests to hide. In dry processing areas, product dust can sift into the ceiling and support stored product pest. When possible, the ceiling should be removed during renovations.”
In older buildings, Nalyanya says that moisture and the accompanying decay are two of the most-critical things to watch. “Increased moisture resulting from older leaky roofs can lead to development of moldy or musty conditions that are unsuitable for human habitation. Moisture can also lead to wood decay and making the wood attractive to wood destroying insects, mold, and mildew. In addition, older buildings may have outdated HVAC equipment, plumbing, electrical and mechanical features, cabinetry, and shelving which have to be replaced to current codes and modern standards that also provide pest prevention benefits,” he says.
“Roofs should be inspected and updated or replaced to ensure good integrity and no leakage. Like new construction, the building envelope and interior should be inspected by the pest control provider to determine items that need updating and replacement,” Nalyanya notes.
Nalyanya says pest prevention items for older buildings may include:
Installing air curtains on entrances/exits to prevent flying insect invasions
Installing equipment designed to allow easier cleaning behind and underneath
Installing sufficient storage facility with shelving that has fewer voids underneath to prevent accumulation of spillage and facilitate easy cleaning
Sealing cracks and crevices that result from aging both inside and outside
Replacing exterior mercury vapor lights with sodium vapor lights, or place exterior lights away from the building wall or foundation to help prevent attracting pests
A clear concrete/gravel strip around the building and proper drainage of water away from the building foundation
Using landscape plants that are not attractive to insects
Locating dumpsters away from rear entrances on concrete pads that are easy to keep clean
In legacy or older facilities, you’ll also want to look for harborage areas and access points, says Bridwell. “For example, as a building settles, cracks form. These areas can provide harborage or access to most pests. Also, be aware of areas where sanitation is weak, as pests love dirty areas, and this will be where they thrive,” he cautions.
“Older facilities can be updated by understanding what type of pest and your pest pressures, which will help you improve your pest controls,” says Bridwell. “A thorough preventive maintenance and self-inspection program, along with a detailed sanitation program, will also be beneficial.”
Pests can cause harm to the building in the form of structural damage. “The older your facility, the more you should inspect it for signs of structural damage or wear and tear that could provide an opportunity for pests to enter,” says Ramsey. “This can include cracks, holes, overgrown vegetation, etc.”
Ramsey recommends inspecting and monitoring exterior entry points such as dock plates, roofing, ventilation systems, windows, and doors—if you notice any wear and tear, repair them as soon as possible. “If your building is particularly old, it’s a good idea to inspect your drainpipes and plumbing with your pest control provider and repair any potential issues that could make it easy for small pests to crawl into your facility,” he says. He also suggests making sure equipment is in the best running condition, keeping it clean and free from common pest attractants like moisture and organic matter.
Ramsay recommends the following quick fixes to help prevent pests from plaguing your facility:
Regularly maintain equipment
Replace ventilation intakes, caulking cracks and crevices
Space out equipment accordingly to facilitate easy cleaning and prevent giving pests an opportune hiding spot
Use open-backed shelving in storage areas to reduce potential hiding spots for pests
Snack and bakery pests
Colbert says that the pests most common to snack and bakery facilities are mice, followed by a collection of beetles and moths that infest stored grains. “These pests can be shipped in on infested goods or infest materials from nearby outdoor areas. Snack and bakery facilities are also at risk from sanitation pests, or those insects that feed on spilled, wet, organic debris. This would include cockroaches, flies, rodents, and ants. The bottom line is that these types of facilities are a very high risk for pest problems, which is why prevention and proactive measures are so important compared to reactive measures that only take place after an infestation occurs.”
The commodities used in bakeries are a perfect source for food and bedding for stored product pests like Indianmeal moths, flour beetles, and warehouse beetles, says Bridwell. “These same commodities invite rodents such as the house mouse and both Norway and roof rats. Issues with organic matter and sanitation can attract various types of flies, such as drain flies, fruit flies, phorid flies, and house flies.”
Cockroaches, including German and American cockroaches, can become a problem especially in older buildings with underground tunnels, crawl spaces, basements, and/or steam tunnels, and in facilities located near sewer lines, notes Nalyanya. “In metro areas, rats are also an issue. Small flies, too—especially fruit flies, as they breed in and around floor drains, sometimes inside sink/dishwasher disposals, other areas of the bakeries with poor drainage, and where organic matter accumulates and putrefies—e.g., under hard-to-reach cabinets, preparation tables, dishwashers, cracks and crevices along the walls, loose grout, etc.”
Other pests to watch out for include stored product pests of various kinds, including flour beetles, grain weevils, moths, and ants.
Tiny stored product pests thrive in facilities that produce snack and baked goods because of the abundance of grains and dried goods, says Ramsey. “Common critters in this category include Indian meal moths, cigarette beetles, drugstore beetles, grain beetles, mites, and flour beetles. They are typically introduced to facilities via transportation from suppliers, so be sure to inspect all shipments upon arrival. Stored product pests can cause thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to your baked goods.”
Harmful rodents can slip into your facility in various ways including via open doors, drainpipes and even small holes, adds Ramsey. “They carry harmful pathogens that can be spread to humans via their urine and droppings, and contaminate your products, causing you lost profits and delayed operations. Look for grease marks, gnaw marks, and signs of structural damage.”
The constant flow of deliveries for products and ingredients makes it easy for cockroaches to sneak into your facility undetected, says Ramsey. “Once inside, they feed on your products and excess packaging like cardboard. Their bodies also transmit dirt and harmful bacteria across surfaces, which could jeopardize your food products and employees’ health. Spills create odors and sticky residues when not cleaned up immediately that can attract cockroaches, rodents, and ants.”
Some pests can be tied to the sewer system, such as some types of flies and American cockroaches, as they enter facilities from the drains, says Hottel. “Another waste-related system that can be responsible for introducing pests to the property are the dumpsters and feed trailers used for repurposing food if not properly cleaned.”
“It’s important that all employees and managers have an open awareness that these facilities draw pests,” says Colbert.
Managing the facility’s waste, rewarding employees who identify a pest problem, and quickly correcting pest problems are important protocols, notes Colbert. “Early detection and rapid response are critical to avoiding contamination and other issues with pests. Interpreting the monitoring data is an important proactive step that can help to avoid infestations. Quarterly inspections, or even more frequent, are important to inspect the exterior for entry points and to identify potential pest harborage.”
Bridwell says that for pest control maintenance to work best, it’s important to have a program that is proactive instead of reactive, with scheduled inspections. “You should then clean and inspect all the pest management devices each visit, as defined in the scope of service, to ensure the IPM program is effective and always audit-ready. It’s also best practice to have knowledge of the type of pest management devices you need. For example, if you have Indianmeal moths, you’ll need hanging pheromones. If you have red flour beetles, you’ll need floor pheromones,” he advises.
“Also, in bakery facilities, you will need to know when to fog versus when to fumigate,” says Bridwell. “You can do this by having knowledge of the pest you’re dealing with and its life cycle, setting pest thresholds, and reviewing reports such as customer complaints, tailings data, and insect fragment data. Remember, fogging is just a temporary solution to your pest problems, as it only kills what it touches and can leave residue. Fumigation can penetrate and is considered a hard reset of the pest pressure in the facility.”
Hottel recommends that every facility should be on a weekly inspection program with monitors installed to supplement the visual inspections. “There are a variety of monitors, including pheromone monitors, for many stored product pest beetles and moths. There are also insect light traps and glue traps to assist in spotting pest problems. To help measure rodent pressures, rodent monitors are deployed on the exterior and interior of facilities. Lastly, a full assessment of the facility, which looks at both onsite conditions and pest history, should be done initially and at least annually to determine what other preventative measures are needed for that specific facility. This is in addition to the weekly inspections and actions taken in response to those observations.”
Ramsey says that implementing proper exclusion techniques can help ensure pests don’t sneak into your facility undetected. “A couple of techniques include sealing cracks and crevice and installing door sweeps. Protect your products and ingredients from contamination by storing them properly and securely. Dispose of excess packaging immediately to avoid creating hiding places for pests and ensure containers are tightly sealed,” he recommends.
“As a food-handling facility, sanitation should also be part of your regular pest control maintenance routine. Without access to food and water, pests are less likely to be attracted to your property. During the pandemic, you may be operating with limited staffing, and this might affect your sanitation routine,” Ramsey says. “Be sure to adjust your cleaning practices as needed to ensure your facility is properly cleaned and disinfected.”
Make sure to wipe down equipment and machinery daily to clear out any moisture buildup and/or food debris, says Ramsey. “Similarly, clean up leaks and spills as soon as they occur to avoid creating more attractants for pests. In addition to maintaining a clean production space, make sure employees are washing their hands regularly and keeping breakrooms free of clutter.”
Nalyanya recommends ensuring the IPM contract spells out all aspects of the program, including checkpoints during the year for evaluation of performance and guidelines for program adjustments, if necessary. Educate and inform staff on pest identification, pest-conducive conditions, and pest prevention. “Once informed, they become an effective pest management partner to the pest management provider.”
Good verbal and written communication between the pest management provider and the snack food or bakery site personnel is key to resolving pest issues quickly, says Nalyanya. “Pest management providers should provide pest sighting logs for site employees to record or report pest sightings. The pest management specialists should review pest sighting logs during service visits and respond to the reports. They should also check-in with the site manager or contact person before and after service to debrief and leave behind a well-written service report that details the pest activity, control measures, and deficiencies and recommendations for pest prevention.”
Frequency of service should be dictated by the pest pressures of the site and requirements of any auditing agencies, suggests Nalyanya. “Inadequate service frequency where the pest pressure is high can result in food damage and an increase in extra service calls in between the routine services.”